Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review– The House that BJ Built

THIS IS NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

As you guys may have deduced from my pointed silence, I am suffering from abject writer’s block. It may be time for that to end now, however. As you know, there no better inspiration that irritation and I’ve read a book today that’s irritated me for many reasons. 

The book is The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan. 

First, a bit of background: After downloading the Kindle app on my phone, I’ve taken to randomly buying inexpensive (and sometimes slightly expensive) books that catch my fancy when I’m bored on my commutes. These are books that are usually easy to read page-turners.Potboilers, so to speak. (Although I did read The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood recently, which is a dystopic novel. I liked it at the time, although, on second thought, some of it irritated me as well. But that’s a topic for another day) The reason I do this despite having a long suffering, neglected and marvellously well-written Wolf Hall in my bag is that it’s usually 8pm by the time I leave office, by which time it’s too dark to read a regular book. 

A friend of mine told me Anuja Chauhan’s books are quite fun, so I decided to go for it. Needless to say, I may never talk to her again. (Kidding. Mostly)

Anyway, back to The House that BJ Built: 

This book started decently enough. I went into it expecting a light-hearted romantic comedy, nothing too heavy and it seemed to deliver. As I read on, though, it mostly only irritated me. 

I’ve decided to make bullet points on the most facepalm moments in the book.

SPOILER ALERT

  • The author uses the word “pugnacious” too often
  • The book treats issues of domestic violence too lightly and seriously trivialises it. What else do you expect from lower-class Muslims, right? Completely normal. And fixable by a vasectomy without the consent of the abusive husband
  • The male protagonist thinks it’s ok to kiss one woman while in a relationship with another so long as you don’t have sex with the woman you’re in a relationship with after having kissed the new woman.
  • The female protagonist not only agrees with the above, but also is touched that he didn’t have sex after having kissed her
  • Why the fuck are step-cousins romancing each other?! I get that y’all aren’t related by blood, but eesh. 
  • The Thakur girls repeatedly mock their sister for shaving her head and not having her upper lip waxed. Sure, she turns out to be “evil” at the end of the book but maybe she wouldn’t have hated your guts if you hadn’t mocked her appearance or her bodily autonomy. Just a thought.
  • Why the fuck are north-easterners referred to as chinks and other derogatory terms so often?! Is it supposed to be a wry social commentary or something, because it doesn’t seem that way at all. 
  • There’s a money hungry Muslim who’s supposedly standing up for the rights of two north-easterners (who are actually from Bhutan!) and it so happens that he was actually being an opportunistic asshole. Therefore, as the characters conclude, these Muslims are all like this only. Extreme facepalm
  • The representation of the judicial system made me want to weep. They discovered that a will was fake and they didn’t even have to tell the judge. The case, along with the interim order not to alienate, authomatically ceased to exist and they could sell the property. 
  • SELLING IMMOVABLE PROPERTY IS NOT THAT SIMPLE
  • Trademark infringement is fine so long as you have big eyes, curly black hair, and a big butt and big boobs while infringing the trademarks. 
  • The female protagonist is referred to as “brat” and does not mind it despite being a 26 year old entrepreneur. Other characters are also referred to as “brat”, mostly girls and women of various ages. They all accept it as a matter of course.
  • When a character calls out the male protagonist for making a sexist item song, he says that he has 4 aunts who would ostracize him if he made a sexist song and therefore it isn’t sexist.
  • The mother of a seemingly talented female actor yells at her daughter for not stealing the male protagonist from his girlfriend in the way that the female protagonist was able to. 
  • Everyone and his neighbour is concerned that the youngest Thakur girl is unmarried even though she seems successful and fulfilled
  • One of the characters talks about “the cheerleader effect”, which is from the sitcom How I Met your Mother, without any attribution whatsoever. But eh. We already know how the author feels about intellectual property. 
  • The only likable character, BJ, the grandfather, dies early on in the book. 
  • Seriously, what kind of name is BJ? You know about “cheerleader effect” but you don’t know what BJ is??!

    So… That was a painful book to read. I wouldn’t recommend it. But at least it made me blog again. So yay… I think. 

    If you’ve read this book, tell me what you thought of it? Feel free to tell me if you disagree. Have you read other books by the same author? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments

    Hoot.

    –Sin

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    Things Fall Apart | Book Review

    This is a book review of the Book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

    The language is strikingly simple and engaging. It sucks you into the story immediately. This is the kind of writing that I take to and enjoy the most. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to. Always, always write like Hemingway. Or as I shall now say, always always write like Achebe. Big emotions don’t need big words.

    It’s the first book of a trilogy and I am aching to read the next two books. (The only thing stopping me from buying them immediately is the staggering number of books I’ve already bought and not read yet.) Yet, it works perfectly well as a standalone, which I really appreciate because of my exasperation with authors using cliffhangers to get readers to read the next book. And using them poorly, to boot. A cliffhanger can’t just be stopping a story mid-scene. It’s a cheap gimmick in a consumerist era. It’s so much more delightful and authorly to cause your readers to care deeply for your characters so rhat they want to know what happens to them. The impending fate of someone you care for is cliffhanger enough, in my opinion.

    Chinua Achebe made me pity, love and root for his characters, even the misogynistic, patriarchal, violent protagonist, Okonkwo, which is an achievement in itself. Harper Lee said that to understand a person, you have to step into their and walk around in it. Achebe forced me to step into Okonkwo’s skin and sprint a few miles in it, until I ached with his hopes, dreamed his dreams, and felt his helpless anger. Who hasn’t felt futile rage of helplessness against people in power against whom we have no recourse? Whose eyes haven’t stung with rage at  the grave injustices we suffer at the hands of the privileged people? Okonkwo makes you relive each of those moments.

    Lastly, I want to talk to you guys about a question that’s relevant to me as a book reviewer. Right after I read this book, I read the Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Things Fall Apart is referred to in that one. One of the characters states that the book is about the lack of unity being the downfall of the tribe which really struck me because I simply didn’t get that message from this book at all because I thought the book is about culture imperialism and the pain of becoming obsolete regardless of if you’re united. Now I can’t stop thinking of the magic of layered and nuanced books.What do they teach their readers really? Do readers see books in their own image? Whose opinion is even relevant? Is everything in literature subjective? What do you guys think?

    Have you read this book, or any other book by Achebe? What did you think? Are there any other African authors I should read? Let me know in the comments!

    Hoot.

    -Sin

    Ghachar Ghochar | Book Review

    This is a review of the book Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag.

    This is a book originally written in Kannada, translated to English by Srinath Perur. I bought it on the recommendation of the owner of  Bookworm, which is one of my favourite stores in Bangalore. I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before. After buying it, though, I’ve started to notice this book everywhere. It seems to be gaining popularity by the day, and deservedly so.

    I want to begin by saying how embarrassing and shameful it is that I read the English translation over the original text in my native tongue. The truth is, though, that I am a product of colonialism and schools that preach English hegemony like the pope preaches the Bible (I went to “good”schools, in other words.) and I am far more comfortable with English then any Indian language. My Hindi teacher told us that the key to learning a language is to think in that language and I’ve been thinking in English for as long as I can remember. I can read Kannada though, albeit far more slowly, so I am going to try and read the original text of the book at some point. Additionally, I want to read more books in Kannada. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    Now to the book: The back of he book likens Shanbhag to Chekhov. I must confess that I’ve never read Chekhov, but if his books are anything like Ghachar Ghochar, I want to read him post haste.

    The book is set in Bangalore, and I am partial to books set in Bangalore, which is my hometown. It is in the first person. The narrative is non-linear, which seems to be rather common these days in all literary fiction, but which continues to be one of my favourite literary styles. It is the story of the narrator’s family.

    The story starts off at a café where the narrator sits, obviously in mental turmoil. His thoughts are meandering, and naturally drift in the direction of his family. He reminisces about his childhood and his family’s sudden rise to affluence. He reminisces about his past relationship and the state of his marriage. And as he remembers and thinks, a story emerges, mundane and yet, disturbing.

    This book is definitely worth a read. It captures your imagination and makes you smile and worry and fret. It makes you care for the protagonist and his family. All this is in spite of the limitations of a translated version of any book. I really want to read the original.

    Tell me what you thought of this book if you’ve read it. Also, suggest other good books written in Kannada.  What do you think of translated books in general?

    Let me know in the comments!

    That’s all for now, guys!

    Hoot

    –Sin

     

    The Bone Clocks| Book Review

    This is my review of the book The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

    I don’t know what it is about books that have the word”Bone”in them. I always feel attracted to them. I don’t always enjoy them, but I always feel like reading them. Huh. Well, you’re welcome for the random insight into the twisted mind of the Sindhu. Now to the review:

    This is my second David Mitchell book after Cloud Atlas, and I loved both even though they’re completely different books except that they both mess with your head. In a good way, of course. What even is the point of reading a book that doesn’t mess with your head at least a little? Am I right?

    This book is a combination of all things good, in my opinion. It has all my favourite genres. Fantasy, bordering on science fiction; dystopic, futurisic elements; a family saga spanning generations; in one beautifully written, sophisticated brick. I read a major chunk of it over one delightfully undisturbed weekend. I adored this weekend, but it also broke my heart a little because it wasn’t that long ago that this is how I spent nearly all my weekends. Growing up is hard and painful. I’m grateful for books like this that let me in and give me a metaphorical window seat in a cottage in a meadow to have for as long as the book has pages.

    The book starts with Holly Sykes, a fifteen-year old, who decides to run away from home because her mum doesn’t like her boyfriend. Simple enough, but then …it goes batshit crazy. Her running away changes the course of events completely for her whole family. My reaction through most of this book was, “What in the name of god is going on?” But when the plot finally resolved itself, oh, it was so completely delightful, I could have wept. I don’t want to give away much more of the story, though, because everything is a spoiler.

    Some David Mitchell specialities that I’ve noticed in both of his books are: jumping through time in his narrative, skipping years, going into the past and the future with ease; changing perspectives from character to character flawlessly; and combining fantasy with social commentary so that you forget you’re reading fantasy until it whacks you in the face. Both of his books have fantastical elements but it’s more pronounced in the Bone Clocks.

    I also really enjoyed the character development in this book. I am always enchanted by characters whom I root for despite their (sometimes) despicable flaws. I am convinced that I can never create a likable, relatable character, and that it takes skill that I simply don’t possess.

    (I don’t know that you can take my word for the likability of a character, though, to be honest. I remember when I studied Julius Caesar in high school, and my professor told me that Shakespearan characters in his tragedies always had a ‘fatal flaw’ for which they needed to be punished, regardless of how virtuous they otherwise were. The way I view people and the world is somewhat different. I like most people when I first meet them. I do realise that there are bad things about them but nearly everyone I meet has that one redeeming, human quality that makes me want to hug them. Something that makes me go “aww”. People are…cute. They’re all grey and imperfect and worthy of love. I realise that this is naïve, and believe me when I say that liking people doesn’t lead me to trust them or count on them, so I’ll probably not get screwed over. So, worry not. The fact remains though, that it only takes one vulnerability to make me love a person.)

    Yes. The princess of digression is back!

    But, back to the Bone Clocks. Would I recommend it to other people? Hell yes. I feel like there’s something in here for everyone. And it’s a promisingly fat book, which is a huge plus. Give it a try, guys! Five stars from me.

    That’s all for today!

    Hoot.

    Sin

    Here are my social media links. I post cool things sometimes:

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
    Twitter: @sindrao22
    Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
    Instagram: owlishphotographer

    Book Review (and mini rant) |Girl Online

    This is a book review of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg, but it’s mostly a rambling account of what I thought about during and after my reading of the book.

    Have you guys ever bought a book with the thought, at the back of your mind, that this is a book you’re going to love to hate? Have you felt like a fool for buying it as you bought it, but also excited at all the fun you’re going to have as you bash it? This isn’t something I do often, being short on money, and being an impulsive obsessive book-buyer, but I did do it on Saturday: I bought Girl Online by Zoe Sugg because it was on a major discount after the second book in the series came out.

    Well, I am generally partial to books that are written as journals, letters, emails, blogs, etc. and books about writers, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. This factor also contributed to my decision to buy and read this book.

    I also am still young enough to be able to channel the painfully awkward, tortured teenager I was, and remember how much I would have loved a book like this one about generic, awkward teenaged girl back then. With each passing year, the thought processes in such books seem more cringe-worthy and vapid, but I’m consciously trying to avoid being that way because my thoughts were frequently dismissed when I was a teenager whose spotty face seemed like the end of the world and I don’t want to do the same.

    Besides, I have this rule that I’ll never knock a book until I’ve read it, no matter how ridiculous the premise sounds or how many bad reviews it gets. For instance, I read all three of the Fifty Shades books by E.L. James and took great pleasure in despising it from a place of knowledge and experience. I was able to, on more than one occasion, give elaborate discourses on why the books are problematic. Can there really be a greater pleasure? I think not.

    I actually read this book in a few hours because it’s quick moving and the language isn’t complicated. I will get to the review but first some background:

    I have been righteously sulking since she announced that she was writing a book and has gotten a book deal, grumbling that she doesn’t have any talent as a writer, and that some people have all the luck, etc. This is regardless of the fact that I haven’t had the discipline to finish even a first draft of a novel.

    I also felt righteously smug when it emerged that she had used a ghost writer in the writing of the book even though the ideas and the story were hers. “What else would you expect?” I thought, smirking. I then righteously ignored the pang of shame I felt about my smugness when I heard that she had had to take a hiatus from the internet because all of the negativity triggered off her anxiety.

    I have seen a few of her videos and I thought (in spite of myself) that she’s adorable. However, the sort of consumerist attitude she propagates makes me uncomfortable on a very primal level. I felt alarmed when I see the amount of makeup she slathers on her face to get a ‘natural look’. It doesn’t please me to imagine young girls following her example, and ruining their body images, not to mention their skin. I felt so happy when I saw beautyvloggers like CloudyApples talk about how it can be so tempting to tweak one’s appearance and hide one’s flaws but it isn’t healthy to do that, physically, mentally, and financially.

    Unfortunately, this is a hypocritical view because I do use some makeup every single day. I’ve worn kajal on my eyes nearly every day since I was 17 but I have now started wearing lipstick as well to work. And face cream and face mousse. It makes me more confident, somehow. I don’t know… I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I try to be empathetic and understanding instead of automatically judgmental, her behaviour makes sense.

    People are too impatient to be empathetic, however. It’s like everyone has been desperate to have a voice and be heard all their lives, and the internet has given them this opportunity, to be exploited from the comfort of their own beds in their pajamas. What could be better? Why would anyone choose to exercise restraint which is already forced on us in every other facet of our lives. We can be snide, disrespectful, downright nasty and not even be caught. And we can say them to anyone with even a smidgeon of an online presence.

    I have heard people say things about celebrities that they would think a million times before saying to someone’s face all my life. We were comfortable in the fact that the recipient would never hear us, and even if they did, they wouldn’t care, because we are like gnats to them; just as important with just as much of a voice. This culture has carried forward into the age of the internet however, and people think it’s ok to put these harsh thoughts on to VERY public forums without any concern for if the recipient even has any feelings. In fact, a lot of people seem to believe that people waive their rights to be hurt or to have feelings (among other things) when they become famous.

    That’s what Zoe’s book is about, primarily. It is about an insecure teenager with anxiety disorder who comes to terms with the lack of boundaries on the internet. The storyline was fairly juvenile, and the characterisation was two-dimensional. Despite that, I liked this book for the message. I liked that it spoke about the continuing stigma attached with psychological disorders. I liked that it spoke about the trauma attached with cyber-bullying. I liked that it spoke about the right to privacy that -gasp- celebrities too are entitled to. I liked that it spoke about a new kind of celebrity who’s emerging because of blogs and youtube, the bloggers and vloggers who are even less equipped to deal with their sudden rise to fame. I thought that the token gay friend who is now in every contemporary young adult novel was fairly cliché, and yet, some of the things he said to Penny, the main character, about relationships are hauntingly similar to something a gay friend of mine said to me.

    More than anything else, it was a fast-paced, happy fuzzy book, which never end of becoming favourites of mine, but which I do read every so often when I’m overwhelmed by life or even by the heavy books I usually tend to read. It left me with a smile on my face. It isn’t a fantastic book, and it certainly “literary” in terms of story, characterisation or quality of language, but I can’t help but appreciate what Zoe has tried to do in the book.

    Well, there you go. I am eating crow right now. I sincerely contemplated ripping this book apart for the sake of it, because it bothered me that I enjoyed it, and it is a book that can be picked on quite easily. But I’ve decided to be honest and tell you guys that it’s a book, the sum of whose parts is greater than the parts themselves, at the end of the day. I don’t know if it’s a book I’d recommend, because it isn’t a very revelatory book in terms of the themes it explores but it was a thought-provoking reading experience because Zoe Sugg went through the things the protagonists in this book go through and I feel like I was a part of the problem. We nerds, geeks and outcasts do so love to indiscriminately hate on the “beautiful” people, don’t we? Maybe because we think they deserve it, or because we think they wouldn’t care anyway… I don’t know. But you know. Um. Catharsis. Don’t hate on someone because they enjoy the things you think are lame, shallow and mainstream.

    Well… There are my two cents about cyber bullying and about this pleasant surprise of a book.
    Did any of you guys read this book? What did you think? What do you think about cyber bullying and celebrity bashing? Let me know in the comments!
    Thanks for reading and reaching the end of yet another abysmally long Sindhu-rant. You can now go back to having the nice day you were having before had a lapse in judgment and opened my post. :p
    That’s all for today!
    Hoot
    –Sin

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Book Review

    This is a book review of the first non-fiction book I read this month, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

    Now, you may all be wondering who Henrietta Lacks is.

    In brief, she was an African-American woman who had cervical cancer and who died in 1951 from the cancer. Samples of her malignant cells was obtained from her body by the doctors at the hospital where she was receiving treatment for the cancer. After her death as well, more cell samples were taken from her body from the tumours.

    These were given to a tissue culturist who had been attempting to create cell cultures for research in his lab. He released that these cells were very fast-growing and also that they didn’t seem to die, whereas every other cell he’d experimented on died briefly after being removed from the body.

    These cells were called HeLa and then went on to become the most widely used cells in cancer research, polio research, and a variety of other things, and these cells continue to live to this day.

    However, the fact that these cells belonged to a woman named Henrietta Lacks was not known at all till the 1970’s or 1980’s, nor was anything known about her history, life or family.

    The author of this book decided to undertake the writing of this book because she heard about Henrietta Lacks and HeLa in a biology class. Her interest was piqued but she was unable to find any further information about Henrietta Lacks in any textbook or library. She felt like Henrietta Lacks deserved recognition and her story deserved to be told, and therefore, began the project.

    I studied about Henrietta Lacks in law school in the context of patenting medication invented using her cells, but I was somewhat fuzzy about the details of how her cells came to be in the possession of the doctors, why her family was quite so outraged by it, what her rights even are with relation to her body parts, and whether those rights are alienable.

    I chose this book over the pile of other unread non-fiction I own because it has a lot to do with what I discussed about ownership of one’s body and usage of one’s body in medical research or for medical purposes, and such topics in my book review of Never Let Me Go. I felt like it would be a continuation of the same theme and maybe help to answer some of the ethical questions that I have. Maybe. So I gave it a shot.

    This book was meticulously researched, especially considering that Skloot had to start from very nearly from scratch. Her hard work really came through in her description of her research process, but it was clear that those bits weren’t there simply to explain her work, but rather to explain how confused and traumatised Henrietta Lacks’s family was by what was happening with her cells.

    I really liked how Skloot mixed the more human, for lack of a better word, parts of the story with the legal parts. It didn’t feel like a heavy read at all, but I understood a lot of heavy concepts a lot better by the end of it all. It was apparent that she’d formed a real bond with Lack’s family, and that really touched me.

    I also understood, in large measure, the bewilderment felt by common people at the technicalities of the medical industry, which also applies to the legal industry I think. I almost cried when I was reading those parts.

    The book answered most of my legal and factual questions, but it did not clear up my ethical dilemmas at all. In fact, I have more questions than ever. I’m very grateful for that because it makes me want to help to resolve the many legal grey areas of medical research and human experimentation.

    This book is a good, educational and still enjoyable read that I think everyone should read. The things it speaks about should be general knowledge.

    Plus, there wasn’t a slow moment in the book. I loved reading every bit of it. It flows smoothly and engages the reader throughout. Overall, it’s an auspicious start to non-fiction reads month I think. Read it!

    Hoot,
    Sin
    Go and check out my social media places 😀 It’ll make me happy:
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
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    Twitter: @sindrao22
    Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
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    Rereading my Favourite Book

    If any of you follow my Instagram, you may know this already: I have a new copy of Bird by Bird, which is possibly my favourite book.

    I took it out to reread a few weeks ago, and my puppy just destroyed it. He’s damaged my books before, and I’ve forgiven him because… Well, because of his face, okay? This one got me pissed off for a while though. But I finally let it go because he sat outside my bedroom door and refused to move until I spoke to him. True story.

    My dad said he’s just like me and he likes to ruminate on interesting books. Dad jokes. Sigh.

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    Well, since it is Bird by Bird, and not a different book, I simply had to buy a new copy. It came a couple of days yesterday with a hilariously appropriate doggy bookmark. AMAZON KNOWS EVERYTHING. 😮

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    Since the book happily is non-fiction, which is the theme of the month, I’ve decided to take a couple of days to reread it. It’s particularly appropriate because I’m attempting NaNoWriMo at the end of this month and I have a vague story idea that I’ve debated like a crazy person with my best friend, but I’m majorly pantsing it. And pantsing is how Anne Lamott rolls. I love her so much.

    You know, I haven’t read anything else that she’s written. Should I? Advise in comments.

    This isn’t the only book I’m reading right now, but I’m just very excited to reread it and I wanted to tell you guys. I won’t be reviewing it or anything like that, though. I’ve just written this post to tell you guys to read this book for sure if you’re writers, especially if you’re doing NaNoWriMo. It’s like an adorable crash course in writing, and believing in your writing.

    I have already read one book this month and scheduled a review for it, so you can look forward to that!

    If you are doing NaNoWriMo, tell me and maybe we can be writing buddies? What are your favourite books about writing? Have you read anything by Anne Lamott? Let me know in the comments. 

    Also, here are my customary social media links. Go ahead and stalk me:

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
    Twitter: @sindrao22
    Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
    Instagram: owlishphotographer

    That’s all for today.

    Hoot.

    Sin 🙂